Breakfast, lunch, and dinner may mark the beginning, middle, and end of the day, but for centuries Italians have eaten two small informal meals that come in between. Italy in Small Bites is the first-ever collection of recipes for these bite-size treats, known as spuntini and merende, the soul food of Italy.
Spuntini, the midmorning snack, can be as simple as a sublime walnut-and-raisin-studded coffee cake, while merende, which are enjoyed midafternoon, might be a wedge of onion frittata or artichoke tart, a crunchy pillow of fried dough served with figs or prosciutto, a purée of fava beans, or sweet peppers mounded on a slice of rustic country bread.
The best-known merende in America are pizza and focaccia, but there’s an entire universe of appealing food revealed in this book. Though the recipes are tied to centuries of tradition that go back to a time when merende reinvigorated laborers in the fields, they’re singularly perfect for contemporary eating in America and are as versatile as they are delicious.
Merende make perfect impromptu meals because they are stunningly simple foods meant to make life easy. Some — bruschetta with various toppings, frittate, vegetable tarts, polenta crostini — may be familiar, while others are welcome new discoveries. Served individually or in combination, they can become a meal — any meal — and they are healthy, inexpensive, and casual, perfect for the way we live.